The future of wearable technology in the workplace
By Ismail Nabeel MD, MPH FACOEM
An era of remarkable innovation is underway. We’re looking at the advent of brand-new technologies called “Wearable Computers.” Wearable computers, also known as body-borne computers or wearables, are defined as “miniature electronic devices that are worn by the bearer under, with or on top of clothing.” (dictionary.com). We are already starting to appreciate their presence in our daily lives as people start wearing devices like Fitbit, Nike fuel band, Jawbone Up, Pebble Watch, even the device to track dog’s activity, “Whistle.”
In early 2013, I became part of the select group of 8,000 selected for the social experiment conducted by Google called the “Google Glass Explorer Program.” The goal for this unique national social experiment was to figure out how wearable computers could work in a complex social setting. Last year, I was fortunate to be invited to present my experiences to NIOSH staff in Cincinnati, Ohio.
I experienced many advantages to this technology – displaying driving directions, translating multiple languages, providing flight information, and reminding me of appointments. My contribution included transmitting a point of view (POV) of a surgeon during a live orthopedic surgery to medical students in real time. Wearable technology can be used for working in remote locations, disaster areas and underserved communities. It is possible to transmit information/data/images/scenarios back to other healthcare providers and workers at multiple sites simultaneously.
Although it has been widely reported in the Media that “Google Glass” is no longer on sale and the product has been discontinued by Google, the communication I have received from Google (shared publically 1/15/15) states that Google Glass has now graduated from the explorer/experimental Google[x] labs program. They are now in a process of re-engineering the Glass to be launch as a 2.0 product for the market.
Although we don’t know when the new Google Glass version will be released, Google continues to work with its Google Glass partners. The “Google at Work” program has been up and running (Hedgecock, S. 2015). Additionally, Microsoft recently announced the HoloLens (Warren, C 2015) which will continue to transform the use of wearable computers similar to Google Glass in the work space.
Applications in the Workplace
There are many applications for wearable computers in the workplace and the field of occupational safety and health. Below are a few examples of how Google and others are applying wearable technology in the workplace.
Google Glass Explorer Patrick Jackson (Kelly 2014), a firefighter from Rocky Mountain, North Carolina, built an interesting “Glassware” (application) which provided hands-free access to the information that firefighters need in the field. In one of the test cases an app demonstrated how to dismantle a body of a Ford Explorer and extract an injured victim. Because the information was displayed on the glasses, both of the firefighter’s hands were free to work on removing the victim.
X0Eye technology (Shaw 2014) has taken the challenge of using wearable technologies at the workplace one step further. They are building an industrial grade, robust, ruggedized, ANSI-certified, reusable, low-cost smart eyewear. This product includes...Click here to read the rest of the post.